Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will join U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty on Tuesday in the East Room of the White House to learn more about the 10 executive actions President Barack Obama will take to combat gun violence.
The latest effort marks the second time Obama has tried to use his executive authority to change the nation’s gun laws.
Unable to persuade Congress to approve tighter controls on gun sales in 2013 following the Dec. 2012 shooting deaths of 20 elementary school students and six educators in Newtown, Obama issued a series of 23 executive actions in January 2013. In April of that year, the U.S. Senate was unable to find enough votes to debate a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases and the issue faded from the national spotlight for awhile.
But in his last term, Obama renewed his call for changes to the nation’s gun laws after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon on Oct. 1, 2015.
“The President and Vice President are committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence,” a fact sheet announcing the 10 new executive actions reads.
One of the provisions would have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives make clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business — from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.
The White House said in documents detailing the executive orders that “Background checks have been shown to keep guns out of the wrong hands, but too many gun sales — particularly online and at gun shows — occur without basic background checks.” That’s why anyone who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms needs to be licensed, according to White House officials.
In order to make sure those background checks are accurate, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is overhauling the background check system, as part of the executive orders.
The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.
The president also will announce his intention to fund 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce gun laws.
The Obama administration also is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care and he wants to make it easier for states to report relevant information about people prohibited from possessing guns for specific mental health reasons.
Another one of his executive actions will require money to research the use of smart gun technology by the government.
Esty, who is vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal met with Obama on Monday to go over his proposals, which they all support.
“Background checks save lives. Every single day, they stop more than 170 felons — as well as domestic abusers and fugitives — from buying a gun,” Esty said. “Today’s action is a necessary, responsible next step to update an exceptionally vague definition in the current background check system that some bad actors exploit in order to sell a high volume of guns without ever conducting a background check.”
Murphy and Blumenthal and 24 of their colleagues sent a letter to Obama last month, specifically urging him to eliminate a loophole that currently allows individuals without a federal license to conduct high volumes of gun sales at gun shows, over the Internet, and elsewhere, all without conducting background checks.
“Sellers of guns in substantial numbers should be required to conduct background checks regardless of how they make those sales — a mandate supported by the vast majority of Americans,” Blumenthal said. “The existing loophole mocks practical reality and federal law’s clear intent and purpose.”
Following last month’s shooting in San Bernadino, Calif., Malloy announced that he asked the White House for access to various federal watchlists to use in doing background checks in Connecticut for gun purchases. On Monday, Malloy said he had not heard back from White House officials about whether it would be legal for Connecticut to move forward with adding them to background checks for gun permits.